Story and Photos by ITN European Reporter Herve’ Rebollo
Salut à toi American rider,
For my monthly ride, my biker friend Philippe suggested me that we should go to visit WOINIC somewhere in the North-East of France, not far from the border with Belgium. I supposed he was a friend of him. Ok man, let’s go to see your guy and surprise me with new great roads …
Have you heard about WOINIC? I didn’t. And in fact … WOINIC, which stands at a motorway service area just off the Autoroute A 34 in France, is said to be the biggest boar in the world standing over 30 feet tall, and almost 50 feet long. The giant hog was crafted by the artist Eric SLEZIAK out of nearly 50 tonnes of metal and took 11 years and over 12,000 hours to make. It was installed on its rotating plinth on August 8, 2008.
Woinic is simply the coolest Big Thing to See in Northern France! The artist used 50 metric tonnes (over 55 tons) of material, and sculpted WOINIC from 1983 to 1993! In 2008, WOINIC the World’s Largest Boar was finally installed in his current resting place, on a rotating platform at a motorway service area that is very convenient to tourists. You will find WOINIC just north of Saulces-Monclin – a town of about 700 residents – between Rethel and Charleville-Mézières.
Wild boars are not the most attractive animals to some of us, but in the Ardennes county, these animals are revered. WOINIC is a symbol of strength, courage and solidarity!
To see the Big Boar Sculpture for yourself, point your rental car toward Autoroute A 34, 08270 Faissault, France. You can also search for Ardennes WOINIC on most GPS applications to plot your course. And WOINIC the Big Boar is not just the #1 most visited thing in the Ardennes, he is also the inspiration for a beer from the microbrewery Ardwen in Launois-sur-Vence! WOINIC beer comes in two varieties, WOINIC Triple and WOINIC Rouge (with a cherry flavor).
Nearly 10 meters high, 14 meters long and 5 meters wide! 50,000 kg of metal, 6,500 kg of solder and over 12,000 work hours by its creator, born out of his imagination and his welding equipment. This achievement required 430 coils of solder and 328 bottles of gas. Started in 1st January 1983, this colossal monument was terminated 11 years later on 11th December 1993. That is the titanic work of art by the sculptor Eric SLEZIAK.
The name “WOINIC” is the contraction of the nickname of the father and the name of the mother of the sculptor, Woidouche and Nicole. Ex-metalworker/sculptor, Eric, a man from the Meuse Valley, is the creator of Woinic.
In his workshop in Bogny-sur-Meuse, he confronted the icy-cold winters and the suffocating heat of some summers. An iron will: typical of an Ardennes man. A form of tribute to metalworking.
Woinic is a life’s work and a magnificent example of tenacity. So fitting for a wild boar. So fitting for the Ardennes.
This work is the pride of all Ardennes people and of the Ardennes County Council, which chose to conserve this emblematic image of a wild boar on its logo. A mythical animal, it is part and parcel of the culture of the Ardennes. It symbolises the French Ardennes’ identifying values: strength, courage and solidarity.
WOINIC was released from its lair in Bogny-sur-Meuse on Monday August 4th, 2008. After an extraordinary journey of 55 kilometers through the French Ardennes at the speed of 8 kph, The biggest wild boar of the world reached its destination just off the Ardennes motorway exit on 8th August 2008, D-day of the 08-08-08* festivities, the day of the century for all Ardennes people (* 08 being the number attributed to the Ardennes district).
Surrounded by mustard fields, WOINIC, the largest boar in the world, giant of steel beast that stands as both a roadside curiosity and as a symbol of the Ardennes region in general, gave us a wonderful reason to turn gas into noise with our lovely Harley Street Glide in a round trip of 500 great kilometers on a sunny Saturday !!! Yes!!!!
So, next time you will spend some days in Paris, we shall take our bikes and I’ll bring you to this surprising place to meet WOINIC the World’s Largest Boar. Don’t forget your camera. And, as there is a machine in front of the exhibit Info-Point of “WOINIC -The largest wild boar in the world”, you will press your own 5€-Cent-Coin.